Psychologist: Animal cruelty could be reflection of a person’s socialization

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This raises the question: Why would anyone intentionally harm an animal? Clinical psychologist Mary Fegurgur says it may have something to do with perception.

In the last two years, concerns about animal cruelty have come to the forefront as over two dozen family pets were killed in villages across the island.

This raises the question: Why would anyone intentionally harm an animal? Clinical psychologist Mary Fegurgur says it may have something to do with perception.

Do you consider your four-legged friend an animal or a family member?

The hypothesis is that individuals who are prone to hurt animals are related to interpersonal family violence, says Fegurgur.

But that doesn’t mean they were reared in an abusive home.  Fegurgur is talking more about socialization.

Fegurgur says there is a possibility that the individual who harms an animal, let’s say a dog, might have been socialized into believing that kind of behavior is acceptable.

“Most families now perceive a dog or a cat or any kind of pet as a family member versus an animal. So a person who is more likely to hurt a dog or a cat or be cruel was probably socialized to treat an animal like an animal. They’re an animal they don’t have any feelings, they don’t feel any pain so when someone does those things — what we perceive as cruel and now illegal — they’re not necessarily seeing as a crime,” Fegurgur said.

She added: “If you did the same thing to a family member, they would be shocked and upset but they’re are not seeing that the dog or the cat is a family member for us.”

Fegurgur says there is research on individuals who are harmful to animals showing a co-existence with interpersonal family violence.

Interpersonal family violence could be child abuse, family violence between spouses, or could be a range of things that end up being a power and control type of interaction.

And the red flag could signal an underlying mental condition.

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Jolene Toves
Jolene joined the PNC team in 2017, as a producer, co-anchor and investigative reporter covering law enforcement, courts and crimes. Notable coverage includes the Ehlert case, the Mark Torre Jr. trial, the Allan Agababa trial, exclusive pieces on the Life of a Drug Dealer/Addict, and Life behind bars...the story of Honofre Chargualaf and Kevin Cruz. In 2019, she was promoted to Assistant News Director and Lead Anchor. From 2015 to 2017 she served as Public Relations and Promotions Manager, for the Hotel Nikko Guam handling local radio and advertorial promotions, as well as produced and directed tv commercials for the hotel. Prior to this she worked with KUAM for three years as a reporter and segment host. She began her journalism career in 2012, working with Glimpses of Guam contributing to the Guam Business Magazine, R&R magazine, MDM magazine and the Marianas Business Journal.